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We  are  facing  an ‘avoidable  power crisis’

EDITORIAL

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E CARTOON APR 16, 2019 REVISEDRotating  brownouts were enforced in Metro Manila and various parts of Luzon  last week. As of mid-day Friday, some 1.38 million customers – households, factories, and offices – of  the  Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) were  affected, as were  thousands of other customers of electric cooperatives. Outside of Metro Manila, the provinces of Bulacan,  Rizal,  Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon , were hit by the power interruptions.

Energy Secretary  Alfonso Cusi  called for an emergency  meeting  with the generating companies and  other stakeholders. The  big  loss of power supply, according to the Department of Energy, was due to a combination of both planned maintenance and unplanned outages of several power plants.

Because  of  the major fall in generation capacity,  the National Grid Corporation  of the Philippines (NGCP)  issued a yellow alert notice Thursday  morning, warning of low reserves, followed by a red alert the next day, saying that there was already insufficient supply in the grid.

And  yet, it is  an  “avoidable power crisis” the country is facing, according to the NGCP.  It can be avoided  if  the  government acts swiftly to resolve  pending proposals for new power facilities.  A least 5,000 megawatts of such proposed  facilities remain pending before  various government agencies, including the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

There  is  need  for  additional  and  newer power plants. It is said that many of the plants undergoing forced and unplanned outages are over 15 years  old  and  they continue  to operate despite their inefficiencies.  When  they shut down, resulting in  a deficiency in the total power supply in the grid, prices go up in the spotmarket,  subjecting the public to higher rates.

More critical than price hikes, are the brownouts  that  are  now plaguing households and  various commercial and industrial operations, along with many small businesses. Transportation  and  all  other  sectors of the economy  will suffer. Metro Manila’s rail networks rely heavily on  a stable power supply.

 The  administration’s  “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program will be severely set back by a power crisis as  the the cement and steel plants  producing the basic needs of the construction industry  need  considerable power to operate.

It all boils down to the need for a stable power supply to meet the demands of national  growth. Many of the  existing  power  plants  are  breaking down  and new and more plants are needed. It takes five to seven years  to  set  u3p a power plant.

The red and yellow alerts and the current  brownouts  are  symptoms of a crisis that may soon befall us but, as the  NGCP has pointed out, it is an “avoidable crisis.”  It can be avoided  if  the  Department of Energy, the Energy Regulatory Commission, and  the other government regulatory agencies take immediate action  on so many pending pla3ns for  new power plants that have been held up for so long.

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